Become A CPA

Become A CPA

Harness the Power of Storytelling in Your Next Interview

by Monette Anderson, WSCPA Academic Relations Coordinator | Oct 20, 2014

Monette AndersonSavvy interviewers and recruiters would agree that the best indication of a candidate’s future performance is by analyzing their past performance. Interview questions are geared toward learning about how you’ve handled past scenarios to glean how your personality traits, strengths, and weaknesses are likely to affect your success with their company.

Maya Angelou once said, “People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” Stories spark emotions and work as a remarkable tool to persuade and motivate. Telling a story in an interview is not only a great way to demonstrate how you’ve handled difficult situations in the past; it can also serve to keep the interviewer engaged and interested, thus making you more memorable in a sea of candidates.

During a job interview, it can be challenging to come up with a good example on the spot. You may find yourself wishing you’d shared a better example when stepping out of the interview room. While it can be difficult to prepare for these questions, I believe there are 5 stories you can have ready that will cover the scope of most situational questions. The best thing about having some prepared examples is that you can write out and practice your responses to keep them brief and streamlined.

  1. The Triumph: This is our favorite story to share and you probably have one of these up your sleeve already. For an accounting position, you may want to focus on problem-solving skills here. Rather than focusing on the context of the problem, it may help to focus on the tools you used to solve the problem, especially if you developed your own tools. How you were you able to measure quantitative (vs. qualitative) results?
  2. The Blunder: This is a telling question to the person across the table from you. Don’t look shameful when you answer this question. Keep your head high, look the interviewer in the eye and be sure to impart what you learned from your mistake.
  3. The Pickle: For this example come up with an obstacle that was presented to you, or something outside your control that differentiates it from your failure story. Alternately, demonstrate a time that you remained calm under pressure.
  4. The Collaboration: Most employers will want to know how you interact in a group setting. Especially in an audit role, where you will be working in a team environment. This story can take many angles, but focus on which of your strengths you want to impart to the interviewer. Did you jump in and take a leadership role, spearhead a major negotiation, or play a special role in keeping the team upbeat and motivated during a challenging assignment?
  5. The Dispute: This is a time that you and your boss had a difference of opinion. Ideally your example will demonstrate a time you spoke up on something that may have increased revenue, customer satisfaction, or employee morale. Sharing how you approached your boss may help. Did you set up a private meeting or write up a document with supporting evidence? While preferably you persuaded your boss to agree with you, it’s not necessary. Make evident that you know how and when to move on. In either scenario, keep it positive.

Not every question in an interview will specifically ask for examples, but if prepared, you will have an opportunity to weave these stories into your responses.  If you are applying for your first accounting job, don’t worry if your responses are not accounting related. The employer will be able to gauge a lot of information about your aptitude based on these anecdotes.

Finally, keep your answers succinct, keep them truthful and remain positive.  

Source: 5 Career Stories You Need to Know for Your Next Job Interview by CareerBliss.

1 Comment

  1. 1 Anya Provident 03 Nov
    Ms. Anderson,
    I am the activities coordinator for the Society of Student Accountants (SSA) at Central Washington University (CWU) at  Des Moines.  I love your message and believe it is invaluable for students that are applying for careers and internships currently.  We just had two huge career fairs during September and October and many students are getting selected for interviews but aren't yet well prepared.  The content of your message could help many students as well as increase the amount of students that will become student members of WSCPA.  Many students don't realize the scope of the benefits that come with membership before their 5th year of college, when they are preparing for the CPA exam.  We would love for you to come speak at our school and hold a brief question and answer session after you cover the material about interview storytelling.  We would love if you would be available in November or December, but if your schedule would better permit  January or later I am willing to work with what is most convenient for you.  Please email me so we can start to discuss this matter and get advertisement out on campus. 
    Thank you,
    Anya Provident
    Activities Coordinator, SSA
    CWU, Des Moines campus

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